The most important species are not always the biggest, fastest, or most charismatic. The silvery Atlantic Menhaden usually averages only about 12 to 15 inches in length when it is full grown. But, it’s the massive size of a menhaden school which makes this the most valuable fish you’ve most likely never heard of. Menhaden are among the most important forage species along the Atlantic seaboard and a vital food source for dozens of other species.
For decades the menhaden harvest was among the highest catch in tons of any fishery in the nation, and gross overfishing was a strong concern among other fishermen who understand the menhaden’s valuable role as a forage fish. But this isn’t the first time that menhaden have been in the news or that efforts have been tried to establish a more sustainable fishing level. In a landmark move last year, East Coast fishery managers—responding to a plea for action by more than 90,000 people —committed to advancing new protections for Atlantic menhaden. Now is the time to make sure these plans become real improvements on the water.
Right now we need your help in sending the message that Menhaden need better management! Send a message before Nov. 16th!
Menhaden populations have plummeted 90 percent over the past 25 years and remain at an all-time low—just 10 percent of historic levels. Because these small fish are prey for larger animals, this decline threatens to disrupt coastal and marine food webs and affect the thousands of fishing, whale-watching, and bird-watching businesses that menhaden help support.
We need to leave more menhaden in the ocean to promote their recovery. There is no limit on the total amount of these fish that can be caught at sea. Every year, hundreds of millions of them are ground up to make fertilizer; fish meal for farm animals, pets, and aquaculture; and oil for dietary supplements.
On Dec. 14, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will make decisions that are critical to the recovery of Atlantic menhaden and the ocean wildlife that depends on them for food. Let the commission know that it’s time to bring the menhaden fishery into the 21st century.
Please take a few minutes to send a letter to the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission before Nov. 16th!
Or you can do the right thing by writing a letter to Dr. Louis Daniel, vice chair, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission via the ASMFC staff and urge them to:
- Set an enforceable catch limit;
- Reduce the overall amount caught each year; and,
- Follow-through on commitments to restore the menhaden population.